Democracy Has Prevailed.

April 29, 2011

More On Chuck McCullough (Another Followup)

For those of you who don't know, Chuck McCullough's running for County Executive and right now he's in a race for the Republican Party nod with D. Raja. Last poll numbers I saw had Chuck up by 6 points.

Did you know Chuck McCullough's had some trouble with the law? We've written about it here and there at 2PJ but if you're looking for a single place to all the coverage of Chuck's legal dance, my friend Chad's got a great run down of the facts all in one place.

So far, Raja's been endorsed by (among others) Senator Toomey, Congressman Murphy, and my old friend former member of the US House of Representatives, Melissa Hart.

Chuck's website says he's endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91 and LIFEPAC.

I wonder if Chuck's still up by 6. I still wonder why he was up by 6 in the first place.

April 28, 2011

Turd Blossom and The Doctor Who Screamed

Wednesday night, I was lucky enough to attend the last lecture of the 9th season of the Pittsburgh Speakers Series. It took place at Heinz Hall, dahn-tahn.

From the series' website:

The Pittsburgh Speakers Series is a series of seven different lectures, on seven evenings, at Heinz Hall from October through April.

Our distinguished speakers share with the audience their unique experiences and perspectives on a wide variety of topics - from world affairs & politics, to history & the environment, to books & authors, to business & economics, to the Arts & entertainment. For those who wish to ask the speaker questions, an exciting question and answer session follows each lecture.
While the tickets for the series are only sold as a series, I was able to snag a single ticket for the event - a dual lecture with former Bush Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove and former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman, Howard Dean:
Two powerhouses of the American political system faceoff in an evening featuring individual commentary followed by a response to each other’s talk and audience Q&A. Rove is former Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to President G.W. Bush. Former Governor of Vermont and DNC Chairman, Dean ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
The seating at these events (or at least the one I attended) is rather odd. The first 5 rows or so in front and the last 10 or so are designated "free seating" while the vast middle is reserved. I don't know if it's a similar situation in the balcony. Arriving early, I got a seat in the "free seating" section in front (second row, extreme left as you look out from the audience) very close to the stage, very close to the door Rove and Dean would be walking out of.

WQED's Jim Cunningham was the evening's moderator.

The plan of the evening was this; each guy would get 15-20 minutes for an "introspective" lecture to the audience and then the rest of the time would be taken up with questions and answers and rebuttals to those answers.

Rove, by virtue of a coin toss, went first.

Politics aside, Karl Rove is a very funny guy and a very good public speaker. He gave a concise and very polished "aw shucks, ma'am" autobiography that went from his childhood to his time in the Bush Administration, though the details of his time in the White House were, uh, rather sketchy. A couple of very moving scenes from 9/11 and that was about it.

Governor Dean's 20 minutes were less polished, though not less successful. More rumpled than his cuff-linked counterpart, he managed to get some applause where Rove didn't. It was at that point I thought, "The crowd's Dean's."

That assessment, however, turned out to be incomplete. During the question and answer time, Rove did get some applause to some of his answers. A respectable amount, to be sure as his answers pleased sizable chunks of the audience. His applause also happened to be less than the applause Dean got.

But back to the introspection. What we learned about Karl Rove:
  • He grew up out west. Not poor, but on the "shabby side of middle class."
  • He was always a nerdy kid - his first paper in class was on dialectical materialism.
  • His first "campaign" work (at about 10) was riding up and down his street with a Nixon bumper sticker on his bike. That got him beaten up by the 12 yr old girl who was a Kennedy Supporter.
  • His rise in the GOP from College Republican to Texas to the White House was fast.
  • He was against the idea of Dick Cheney as Vice President.
  • Dick Cheney shot Rove's lawyer and there were laughs all around.
Dean's lecture was somewhat less polished. Some (though not all) of his jokes fell flat. Flat like a flat thing flatly falling. The point of his speech seemed to be that what America needs is for politicians to do what's right for the country and not what's merely right for their own careers. He gave a few examples:
  • Signing the first Civil Unions in the United States bill into law. He said it was the right thing to do even though he had to wear a bullet proof vest for the rest of his time as governor.
  • He told about a few legislators in Vermont who lost their seats after voting for that legislation - even when they knew that their vote wasn't necessary for it to pass. They voted for it anyway because it was the right thing to do.
Then we moved on to the question and answer period. This is where I had some issues. The questions were not done "live" from the floor but were chosen ahead of time.

There were a little more than a half dozen questions Cunningham asked Rove and Dean. He told me after the lecture that the members of the previous lecture's audience were asked to submit questions via email. When asked he said there were "hundreds" and that the producers of the series chose which questions he was to ask. He did stress that neither Rove nor Dean knew the questions beforehand. In other words, they heard them when we heard them. Out of hundreds of questions only a handful made it onto the stage.

And of those, there were no questions regarding:
  • The Bush v Gore Supreme Court case
  • The run up to war with Iraq
  • The never found WMD
  • The illegal domestic surveillance
  • The outing of Valerie Plame
  • The Bush-approved torture
Out of the hundreds of questions emailed-in, Rove and Dean were asked about:
  • Navigating the lies and distortions of the current media environment (this included a brief discussion by Rove of the Long Form Birth Certificate released by the White House. By the way Rove said that Obama withheld it in an effort to let the Republicans further discredit themselves.
  • 2012 Campaign strategy
  • Job creation
  • Corporate Tax breaks
  • The Citizens United Supreme Court case
  • Family Values v Political Competence - which is more important in a candidate?
Don't get me wrong these are all very important topics. But weighed against the enormity of some of the decisions made by the Bush Administration and given that Karl Rove was there in the middle of things for nearly 7 years, you'd think that there'd be at least one question about state-approved torture or yellowcake uranium or smoking guns as mushroom clouds.

But there wasn't.

Yea, I kinda have a problem with that.

We were told at the beginning of the evening that the lecture would be an example of two people of opposing views having a civil discussion. But if civility means ignoring, for example, the events leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, then perhaps a little less civility is in order, if only for a chance to face the truth.

It will never end

If anyone thinks that President Obama's release of his long form certificate of birth will stop the birthers, think again. Twenty percent of the hits we got on this blog yesterday and so far today are people going to a post we wrote back in August of 2009. How did they get there? Apparently, when you google "obama birth certificate fake" and hit "Images" this comes up as the second image on that search:

It's a fake Kenyan Obama birth certificate -- one that Queen Birther Orly Taitz was shopping around in 2009.

Needless to say, the visitors who come to 2pj from that image don't stick around too long.

April 27, 2011

The Rancid Racism of Donald Trump

While Donald Trump was crowing that he is somehow the winner (in being proved wrong?), he couldn't help but let out more racist dog-whistles and code:
The Donald wants to know how it could be possible that President Obama went to Harvard. [How could a black man go to Harvard?! Must be affirmative action!]

The Donald tells President Obama to "get off his basketball court." [Forty years ago, he would have demanded that Obama "put down the watermelon."]
Donald, it's a wonder that that thing on your head doesn't scurry away in embarrassment.

No other president has ever had to prove that he was an American. The birthers will never be satisfied by anything like facts because they can't stand that someone named Barack Hussein Obama, who looks like Barack Hussein Obama is president.

President Obama Releases Long Form Birth Certificate

For the birthers:

(Click to enlarge)

(Please hold on to your heads)

UPDATE: Jesus H Christ, Trump is on my teevee taking credit for this. Douchebag. Oh, God! He's saying we have to look at it and see if it's really "real" and now we can get back to the issues. Fucking douchebag. He's saying it's "amazing" that it's "finally materialized." He keeps saying he's honored.

UPDATE 2: Good Lord! Now Trump is pimping his teevee show.

(h/t to Talking Points Memo)

Our air sucks!

Via the Post-Gazette:
Air quality in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area continues to rank among the worst in the nation, despite steady improvements in soot and smog levels.

Other regions throughout the nation are improving air quality at a faster pace.

In the American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2011" report released Tuesday, the Pittsburgh area ranked as the nation's third most polluted area for short-term particle pollution for the second year in a row. It ranked behind only the Bakersfield-Delano and Fresno-Madera areas of California.
Allegheny County received an an "F" for both particle and ozone pollution.

Rallies, Protests and a Happy Hour

It's that time of year -- lots going on!

Protest Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Meeting
WHEN: Wednesday, April 27 · 10:00am - 1:00pm
WHERE: Rachel Carson Building, rm. 105 - Harrisburg PA
WHAT: Protest Governor Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission meeting. More info here

Don't Make Us Work Till We Die!
WHEN: Wednesday, April 27 · 12:00pm - 1:00pm
WHERE: Social Security Office, 921 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
WHAT: Action and Funeral Procession, "Bring: Skull and Crossbones, Death Masks, Skeletons, Wheelchairs and Walkers, anything that signifies Seniors Worked to Death! We have a coffin! After the rally, volunteers will gather petitions downtown and pass out Flyers for the May 3rd Rally, Sponsors so far: Strengthen Social Security, Health Care for America Now, The National Organization of Women, SEIU, ARA, SOAR, CLUW, looking for more!" Sign the petition at RSVP here

Rally for Valerie and A Community Call to Action
WHEN: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 12 Noon
WHERE: Freedom Corner (Centre Ave. and Crawford St. intersection), Pittsburgh PA
WHAT: 'Why a "Rally"? To support Valerie McDonald Roberts, the most qualified candidate for Allegheny County Controller.
Why a "Call to Action"? To effect the inclusion of African Americans in Allegheny County leadership positions.'

The PAC is Back -- P2pac Happy Hour
WHEN: Thursday, April 28 · 6:00pm - 9:00pm
WHERE: 3705 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201-1819
WHAT: "Join us at Eclipse Lounge Pittsburgh on Thursday from 6-8pm. Reconnect with long-time supporters, welcome new ones, meet our board, and discuss the important May 17 primaries. Mingle, ask questions, learn about the races, and donate to the P2pac (donation not required, but very much appreciated) so that we can support the best local candidates for Pittsburgh's future in the coming elections!" P2pac on Facebook here. RSVP here

Ah, Yes...The War On Easter.

In today's Tribune-Review we read:
The White House this year did not release its traditional Easter proclamation. A spokesman dismissed questions about the lapse and subsequent criticism. Hey, the first family went to a Baptist church on Sunday, said Jay Carney.

And there was that Easter breakfast last week for Christian ministers -- where Mr. Obama professed his Christian faith, it's reported.
Traditional Easter Proclamation?

So the appropriately "Christian" (and please note my irony quotation marks. WWJD? He certainly wouldn't allow torture or kill innocent civilians, that's for damn sure.) George W. Bush issued an Easter proclamation, right?

Nope. Not one.

In fact Little Green Footballs goes further. There hasn't been an official Easter proclamation since at least 1980. None from either Bush, none from Clinton and none from Reagan, either.

And yet the Trib says they're "traditional" and that the lack of one this year is somehow an anomaly.

But then the braintrust at the Trib takes an extra step into dishonesty:
Let's see, there have been proclamations about major Muslim holidays. Last year, Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha each received one. And, by golly, there was an Easter proclamation last year -- one that included mentions of a variety of other religions and even the nonreligious.

Last year Easter was on April 4 and according to this list at the American Presidency Project, there was no Easter Proclamation on or before April 4, 2010. Or indeed anywhere in that year.

It isn't there. Doesn't Scaife's braintrust even bother to check these things?

How about Ramadan? Was there a Ramadan proclamation in 2010 like the braintrust says?

Uh, no.

Ramadan 2010 took place between August 11 and September 9. Look at the list. No proclamation for Ramadan.

Usually we can trust Scaife's braintrust to give us an early morning chuckle. Usually they spin the facts rightward and usually that's funny. But today they got so many facts absolutely wrong it's difficult to laugh.

No War on Easter. No Ramadan proclamations. No facts getting in the way of a cheap smear. That's the Trib editorial board today.

April 26, 2011

More On Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's getting a lot of press these days. What I find intriguing is the many many ways in which Rand's a hero (heroin?) to the right. And yet there were so many many ways in which she's not of the right. For instance in the past few days there was this by Michael Gerson of the Washington Post:
The appeal of Ayn Rand to conservatives is both considerable and inexplicable. Modern conservatism was largely defined by Ronald Reagan’s faith in the people instead of elites. Rand regarded the people as “looters” and “parasites.” She was a strenuous advocate for class warfare, except that she took the side of a mythical class of capitalist supermen. Rand, in fact, pronounced herself “profoundly opposed” to Reagan’s presidential candidacy, since he did not meet her exacting ideological standards.

Rand cherished a particular disdain for Christianity. The cross, she said, is “the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. . . . It is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.” Yet some conservatives marked Holy Week by attending and embracing “Atlas Shrugged.”
But that's just some writer writing about Rand. They may be some liberal whack job taking her ideas out of context. Maybe the writer's a jealous Lyndon Larouche follower. Who knows?

What do we find if we dive head-first into the crystal clear waters of Objectivism?

Among other things, we find this:
Roe v. Wade is right in its result, but dangerously wrong in its reasoning. Roe v. Wade is correct in its conclusion that a fetus has no rights and that a woman has the right to determine whether or not to abort her pregnancy. But Roe v. Wade is wrong insofar as it holds that "state interests" justify interference with the woman's right and that, when the state so desires, it may commandeer her body either for her supposed benefit or the benefit of a fetus.
The problem, the writer goes on to say, is found in "balancing" rights against "state interests" as in:
Abortion is a right, and all rights are absolute and cannot be "balanced" away. Ayn Rand has explained: "A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context." The moral standard to be applied, Ayn Rand has shown, is that of man's life and what is "required by man's nature for his proper survival." The fundamental condition for man's survival--the freedom to use his rational faculty to maintain and enjoy his life. Thus, a pregnant woman, like every other individual, has the right to determine her own destiny and the destiny of her body, to choose what constitutes her own best interest and private happiness and to work for its achievement, so long as she respects the same rights in others.
And what of the rights of the fetus? Pro-life Objectivists must be surprised to read:
The concept of rights is based on man's nature and presupposes the existence of an actual, fully formed and separate human being. Fetuses and embryos are not actual human beings; they are potential human beings. They have no rights until they exist apart from the mother, i.e., at birth.
To Ayn Rand abortion is an absolute right that can not be balanced away to any state interest. A woman has absolute right to determine the destiny of her own body and any fetus she may be carrying has no rights at all until it is born.

Imagine if the Secretary of State or the First Lady said exactly the same thing. Fox "News" would never tire of pointing out the radical anti-family philosophy of either.

So tell me again why Rand's such a darling of the right? No really, I am serious.

April 25, 2011

Welcome To The World, Cormac!

From this Early Returns piece from Friday, we read:
And mazel tov to new dad Chris Potter and wife Melanie for the birth today of son Cormac.
Potter's been a good friend and on occasion (but only when he thinks it's warranted, of course) an annoyingly passive-aggressive critic to this blog for a long long time. Except for the stubborn defamation lawsuits that our attorneys assure us have direct links to something Potter suggested to us, his insights are, for the most part, not so damaging as to force us to shut down the blog and move to Toronto to avoid Homeland Security.


But I fear I've said too much. I do want to take a moment to congratulate Mr Potter on his great good fortune!

And in his defense, I'd like to point out something to Tim McNulty, P-G writer who included this in his piece:
Pittsburgh City Paper's cover story this week is on the Corey O'Connor/Chris Zurawsky race to replace Doug Shields as the Democrat in council district 5. (We're frankly shocked that Potter* didn't go with a "hair apparent" headline.)
Tim, have you seen Potter's "hair line" these days? It's farther back than mine! If there's a reason he didn't make up some cheap coiffure drollery to describe a full head of hair, it's probably because he is, like me and Tony Norman, unfairly hair-free up top.

Life's hell for the follicularly challenged, you know. Cormac will understand this in about 45 years.

April 24, 2011

In Case You Missed This

From the AP:
Former chief U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei suggests in a new memoir that Bush administration officials should face an international criminal investigation for the "shame of a needless war" in Iraq.
ElBaradei cites examples, including the conclusion by his inspectors inside Iraq that certain aluminum tubes were designed for artillery rockets, not for uranium enrichment equipment to build nuclear bombs, as Washington asserted.

The IAEA chief reported this conclusion to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 27, 2003, and yet on the next day Bush — in a "remarkable" response — delivered a State of the Union address in which he repeated the unfounded claim about aluminum tubes, ElBaradei notes.

Similar contradictions of expert findings occurred with the claim, based on a forgery, that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, and an Iraqi exile's fabrication that "mobile labs" were producing biological weapons.

"I was aghast at what I was witnessing," ElBaradei writes of the official U.S. attitude before the March 2003 invasion, which he calls "aggression where there was no imminent threat," a war in which he accepts estimates that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed.

In such a case, he suggests, the World Court should be asked to rule on whether the war was illegal. And, if so, "should not the International Criminal Court investigate whether this constitutes a `war crime' and determine who is accountable?"
No immanent threat. Hundreds of thousands dead. An illegal war based on lies (and at least one forgery). War Crimes.

The book, The Age of Deception, is to be published this week by MacMillan. Here's an excerpt:
In the years since, multiple sources have confirmed that the premise for the March 2003 invasion—the charge by the United States and the United Kingdom that Saddam Hussein's WMD programs represented an imminent threat—was groundless. The U.S.-appointed Iraq Survey Group would later spend billions of dollars to verify that the international inspectors were correct: Iraq had not revived its WMD programs. Nor, apparently, was the alleged WMD threat the real motivation for the U.S. and U.K. aggression. The famously leaked "Downing Street" memo from July 2002 was one of several sources indicating that the decision to go to war had been taken well before the inspections ever began.

To this day, I cannot read such accounts without reflecting on the thousands of soldiers who have died, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, the millions maimed or displaced, the families disrupted, the lives ruined—and I am astonished that there has not been more self-examination, more introspection on the part of the principal players. The shame of this needless war obliges us all to consider what went wrong in the case of Iraq and to reflect on how the lessons of this tragedy might be applied to future crises.
And while in 2008, candidate Obama said this:
What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve.

So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment -- I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General -- having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now -- are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it's important-- one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing betyween really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law -- and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.
We've seen nothing from President Obama even remotely similar.

Happy Easter, my friends. Happy Easter.

April 23, 2011

Pittsburgh Magazine Reader's Poll Reminder

In case you missed it here or here or here, let me remind you of the Reader's Poll taking place at Pittsburgh Magazine.

Here's the link, yet again.

About half-way down the page (in the "Media" section) there's a box for y'inz to vote for favorite "Local Blogger."

You must do what you feel is right, of course.

April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011

Today is Earth Day (and "Greener Pittsburgh Day" in the City of Pittsburgh).

In completely related news, there was a major blowout at a fracking gas well in Pennsylvania this week spilling "thousands of gallons of chemical-laden fracking fluid" and forcing some families out of Leroy Township in Bradford County.

Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Chesapeake suspended all post-drilling activity on its wells in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, a freeze that will remain in place while they investigate why the well malfunctioned.
Chesapeake’s voluntary fracking moratorium came a few hours after environmental group PennFuture urged DEP to shut down the company’s drilling operations. “This latest serious problem at a Chesapeake Energy well site demands a serious and vigorous response from DEP,” said president and CEO Jan Jarrett in a statement. “… let’s remember that in February, an inferno erupted at one of Chesapeake’s wells in Washington County injuring three workers. Clearly this company needs to get its house in order and demonstrate to DEP and the public that it can carry on drilling operations safely.”
Maybe if Chesapeake wasn't so busy shilling in the comment section of blogs and other social media sites, they could pay more attention to their drilling activities.

Song for the day:

Pittsburgh Magazine Reader's Poll

Your daily reminder about the Best of the Burgh polling being taken at Pittsburgh Magazine.

The voting will be open until noon on Monday the 25th.

Here's my prediction as to the results:
  1. Ginny (of course)
  2. Some other blog
  3. Some other blog
  4. Some other blog
  5. 2PJ
As you can see, I'm just hoping 2PJ cracks the top 5.

The GOP is The Birther Party

As much as I heartily employ some local conservative republicans' outright rejection of the birther conspiracy theory, I have to point out that the theory, such as it is, is going mainstream GOP.

From Chris Matthews:

He said:
A plurality of Republican voters, 47 percent, said they believed Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was born in another country; 22 percent said they did not know where he was born, and 32 percent said they believed he was born in the United States.
The numbers come from this CBS/NYTimes poll (though it's actually 45% and not 47% who "know" Obama wasn't born in the US).

That's still very close to 7 out of 10 republicans who don't know that the President of the United States was born in Hawaii.

Here's a thought: any Republican you meet on the street you should ask them if they're a birther, because chances are, they are.

Any of my Republican friends want to chime in here?

What a sad state of affairs for a once great political party.

April 21, 2011

More Anti-Science Chicanery At The Trib

They must've been running low on teh crazie at the Tribune-Review over the past few days. Take a look at this convoluted route to try (yet again) to do their pro-business science debunking:
Kudos to's Steve Milloy for debunking suspect blame-mankind research behind demonization of humanity's mercury emissions.

A new Harvard University study links such emissions with increasing levels of methylmercury -- "inorganic" smokestack and tailpipe mercury in the food chain -- and reproductive problems in black-footed albatrosses over the last 140 years.

But as Mr. Milloy points out, the study is manifestly flawed.[Italics in original.
This being the braintrust the first thing a rational person would do is to ask about the source. And the writer, Steven Milloy.

What those sources don't tell you is that Milloy according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute he's (or at least had been, depending on the reliability of the website) an adjunct analyst at CEI as well as an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

What the braintrust won't tell you is that both institutes have been beneficiaries of Scaife Foundation funding.
  • $2.9 million for CEI.
  • $2.5 million for Cato.
Shouldn't they have?

Milloy is also an "expert" over at Fox "News" and accourding to
In January 2006, Paul D. Thacker, a journalist who specializes in science, medicine and environmental topics, reported in The New Republic that Milloy has received thousands of dollars in payments from the Phillip Morris company since the early nineties, and that NGOs controlled by Milloy have received large payments from ExxonMobil. A spokesperson for Fox News stated, "Fox News was unaware of Milloy's connection with Philip Morris. Any affiliation he had should have been disclosed."
Someday the braintrust will disclose that info, too.

Pittsburgh Magazine Reader's Poll!

Did you know that there's a reader's poll being taken RIGHT NOW over at Pittsburgh Magazine?

Yeppers! Here's the link.

Did you know that there's a category for favorite "Local Blogger"?

Yeppers, there is! do know what I am asking you to do, right?


For THIS blog!

And if you should happen to pass your eyes over the "Local Comedian" box and wonder whose name you should type in, try "Gab Bonesso". She's way cool, she's way funny, she wears kickass men's neckties as belts, AY-und she plays the trumpet (but only sometimes, and you have to ask her nicely.)

April 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Magazine Reader Poll!

Hey, I just saw this on the Macyapper's blog.

Every year Pittsburgh Magazine does this poll, right? Well this year they've included the category "Best Local Blogger."

Yes, I want you to vote for me.

And no, I don't expect to win (shouldn't we all just congratulate Ginny now and get it over with??)


Here's the link.

Sorry Ruth Ann, But You're Wrong. Again.

From Ruth Ann Dailey's column this week:
It's been perfectly clear for about three years now that questions about Mr. Obama's nationality have no traction. Whether he is a native-born American or has a valid birth certificate or (most recently, thanks to Mr. Trump) was born at a particular hospital -- reasonable people have long since felt the matter settled.

The only ones being hurt by the regular roiling of these waters are those who oppose Mr. Obama on a higher plane -- namely, the majority of Republicans and independents who do not dwell on the lunatic fringe.
While it's true that reasonable people have long felt the matter settled, what about, you know, Republicans?

In a recent poll by Public Policy Polling of 416 Republican primary voters in Iowa, when asked "Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States?" 48% said no. 26% were unsure. That's 74% who have not settled the matter, Ruth Ann.

But maybe that's just one state. What does it look like nationwide?

In another recent poll by PPP, 400 Republican primary voters were asked, "Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States? 51% said no and 21% were not sure. That's 72% who haven't settled the matter either, Ruth Ann.

Maybe it's the Polling company. So let's look around a little.

Last August in a CNN/Opinion Research poll, when asked, "Do you think Barack Obama was definitely born in the United States, probably born in the United States, probably born in another country, or definitely born in another country? 44% of the Republicans got it wrong. 27% said he was "probably born in another country" while 14% said he was "definitely born in another country" and 3% had no opinion.

That's 44% of polled Republicans who haven't settled the matter, Ruth Ann. Or at least they hadn't settled it in August of 2010.

Does this mean that Ruth Ann Dailey thinks that nearly half of the GOP isn't reasonable?

UPDATE - Straightened out the grammar of that last sentence.

April 19, 2011

Gov. Corbett: Favoring natural gas severance tax is "un-American"

According to Scott Detrow -- who covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett called the concept of a natural gas severance tax "un-American." (Even though that's what they do in every other state.)

This would be in a speech he made before the State Association of Township Supervisors yesterday. And, the tax he would be so opposed to would be on those who come to PA to extract gas from the Marcellus Shale via fracking -- a process which aside from producing mini-earthquakes -- creates millions of gallons of contaminated water. We aren't allowed to know exactly what chemicals are contained in that water as the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. And, we found out confirmation this weekend via the New York Times that:
Oil and gas companies injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009, according to an investigation by Congressional Democrats.
Hmm, now that sounds "un-American."

What also sounds "un-American" is Corbett's appointment of C. Alan Walker, "a coal industry cited numerous times for polluting streams and drinking water" to acting secretary for the state's Department of Community and Economic Development and to the state's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Most importantly, Corbett "gave him authority to expedite and influence permits at any state agency, including the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates drilling in the Marcellus Shale."

Hmm, having the fox guard the hen house. That used to be considered "un-American."

Keystone Progress has a petition that you can sign to let Corbett know what exactly you consider to be "un-American."


From The Office of the Governor Of The Great State of Texas:
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama late Saturday afternoon, Gov. Rick Perry requested a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas as a result of widespread wildfires and continuing fire danger across the state. The governor identified 252 Texas counties presently threatened or impacted by wildfires. Since the wildfire season began, Texas has responded to 7,807 fires across the state that have burned more than 1,528,714 acres and destroyed 244 homes. Rescue efforts have saved 8,514 threatened homes.

"Texas is thankful to the brave men and women across the state who are battling these fires on the front lines and providing support to wildfire victims," said Gov. Perry. "As wildfires continue to rage across our state, Texas is reaching its capacity to respond to these emergencies and is in need of federal assistance. I urge President Obama to approve our request quickly so Texans can continue receiving the resources and support they need as wildfires remain an ongoing threat."
The Great State of Texas needs help from the guv'ment.

From the Governor's letter to the Kenyan-born atheist Muslim:
I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments, and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary.
And how much does he want?

The estimate is $70 million (see the Enclosure B from his letter to the evil one)

It was a different story two years ago:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry isn't ruling out the possibility his state may one day secede from the nation.

Speaking to an energetic and angry tea party crowd in Austin Wednesday evening, the Lone Star State governor suggested secession may happen in the future should the federal government not change its fiscal polices.

"There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."
Except when there's a big problem, then they run to the federal government for $70 million worth of help.

Everything's bigger in Texas even the self-serving hypocrisy.

April 18, 2011

Missed This One...

It was Christopher Hitchens' (author of God Is Not Great: Now Religioun Poisons Everything) birthday last week and I am told that this is Holy Week.

As one small twig braced against the flood of religious news this week, I give you some of Hitchens' own thoughts on religion:

At 7:27 or so:
It is a horrible idea that there is somebody who owns us, who makes us, who supervises us waking and sleeping, who knows our thoughts, who can convict us of thought crime, thought crime - just for what we think - who can judge us while we sleep for things that might occur to us in our dreams, who can create us sick (as apparently we are) and then order us on pain of eternal torture to be well again. To demand this, to wish this to be true is to live as abject slave.
And then at the end:
You're better off thinking for yourself and taking all the risks and I might add all the pleasures that will come.
Happy Monday (I still hate Mondays!)

April 17, 2011

Can Someone Please Explain This To Me??

From the lefty lib'rul Washington Post:
The seed that foreshadowed Hank Krakowski’s downfall Thursday was planted three years ago on a November day in a Texas hotel ballroom when he first addressed the assembled managers of the nation’s air traffic controllers.

He talked about serving pilots and he talked about working with airline dispatchers, but he made virtually no mention of the grinding day-to-day duties done by the men and women who shepherd 47,000 flights through America’s skies each day.

Krakowski was forced out as head of the federal air traffic control system after a series of recent embarrassments when controllers were caught sleeping and a year in which errors — some of them potentially disastrous — have soared.
Can someone please tell me WHY the guv'ment is in the business of regulating air traffic controllers in the first place? Why can't those over paid bureaucrats just get the heck out of the way with all their job-killing big guv'ment regulations and let the invisible hand of the free market clean this mess up?

Why can't we just deregulate and let the airline industry police itself (as it should because only it knows the business - not some cuff-linked bureaucrat who's only protecting his job). If we did that then the invisible hand of the market will inevitably move consumers to the more successful airlines and the less successful will just have to work a little harder in order to survive.

It's for the airline industry to decide for itself what it needs to do to most efficiently bring their goods and services to the marketplace - not Obamacare or ACORN! As a badly run airline will see its bottom line suffer, it's in that airline's self interest to be as safe as possible. They don't need any guv'ment regulation to tell them that!

The process will make the industry stronger and that's the only thing that's important here.

If a few consumers meet their maker due to the mistakes that will inevitably occur due to those less than successful airlines, that's OK. Their sacrifice will ensure all our freedoms. And anyway as Don Rumsfeld once so wisely said, stuff happens. Democracy's messy.

If only the guv'ment would release it's choke hold on it, the free market would solve all humanities problems.

That's all we need - a truly deregulated freemarket.

And Jesus.

Frank Gaffney - Fear Monger

This past Friday I found my self strolling, as I am sometimes fond of doing at lunchtime, towards Market Square dahn-tahn.

Needless to say I was surprised to stumble over a tea party rally being held there.

For the news details here's McNulty of the P-G:
Entering its second year, Pittsburgh's tea party movement had its now-traditional tax day rally in Market Square today, attended by roughly 500 supporters and a gaggle of counter-demonstrators.
Alas, by the time I got there the gaggle had dispersed leaving the 500 or so tea partiers to be kept wide-eyed and entertained by none other than Rose ("Obama may be the devil because he attracts flies and rats") Tennant.

An interesting morsel from the P-G follow up the next day:
Underscoring the tea party's role in the GOP, [Pittsburgh tea party organizer Patti] Weaver, a former candidate for Allegheny County executive, invited fellow GOP candidates Chuck McCullough and D. Raja onto the stage.
Chuck McCullough was there? I wonder if someone from this anti-establishment crowd asked him about his impeding trial. I wonder if anyone in the crowd asked him about his being charged with taking money from an elderly client to make political donations in her name but without her authorization.

I wonder.

I didn't see that if it happened. What I did see was blazing fear mongering by Center for Security Policy President, Frank Gaffney. Some things to keep in mind when ascertaining the credibility of Mr Gaffney:
  • He's a birther. In 2008 Gaffney wrote:
Another question yet to be resolved is whether Mr. Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States, a prerequisite pursuant to the U.S. Constitution. There is evidence Mr. Obama was born in Kenya rather than, as he claims, Hawaii. There is also a registration document for a school in Indonesia where the would-be president studied for four years, on which he was identified not only as a Muslim but as an Indonesian. If correct, the latter could give rise to another potential problem with respect to his eligibility to be president.

Curiously, Mr. Obama has, to date, failed to provide an authentic birth certificate which could clear up the matter.
  • His Center for Security Policy is heavily supported by foundations controlled by our very good friend Richard Mellon Scaife:
$175,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2009.
$300,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2008.
$300,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2007.
$350,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2006.
$350,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2005.
$325,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2004.
$325,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2003.
$325,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2002.
$325,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2001.
Nice to know that such a grass roots movement can host a crazie speaker connected to some very old school conservative money.

Then there's Gaffney's certainty about Saddam's WMD.

Now that we've established Frank Gaffney as completely infected with teh crazie, let's move on to what he was talking about. Gaffney's yelled, screamed, and ranted about how SHARIA LAW IS RUINING THIS COUNTRY.


Except it's not. From Reinbach at the Huffingtonpost:
Here's how Gaffney described what he calls the threat to the New York Senate's Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee on April 8th: ."The best described, I believe, as a politico-legal-military threat whose express purpose is to have it imposed world-wide, subject to a theocratic ruler called a Caliph. That is of course a program that is completely at odds with our Constitution, our form of government, our way of life, our freedoms."

I'll admit that sounds pretty grim. Even if it does seem a lot like the threat of Global Communism I used to hear about as a kid.

The truth? Sharia is religious law, and no religious law can be imposed on the US without amending the Constitution -- twice -- to repeal both the opening clause of the First Amendment, and the Supremacy Clause in Article 6.
Something he never got round to telling the crowd. Here's the opening clause of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
And here's the Supremacy Clause:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
Huh. I thought the tea partiers knew the Constitution.

I guess when it comes to billionaire-funded WMD finding birthers like Frank Gaffney, the truth is something to be jettisoned in favor of fear.

April 16, 2011

Familiar Territory...

The Tribune-Review's on familiar territory today with yet another sortie on the science of climate change. Take a look:
Researchers who reviewed global-warming "forecasting" have found that procedures followed by the United Nations' chief climate cluckers violated 81 percent of 89 relevant forecasting principles.

Along with other experts who have peeked behind the curtain of climate change, these researchers have come to a common conclusion: The alarm over man-made global warming is an anti-scientific political movement.

In a presentation to Congress, J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania -- whose own work in forecasting methods is internationally known -- said the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has failed to demonstrate the "predictive validity" of its procedures.
A few caveats before we begin. J. Scott Armstrong is not a climate scientist. He's a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business but was not speaking as a representative of the that school.

More specifically, it was a presentation to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology:
On Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing to examine processes used to generate key climate change science and information used to inform policy development and decision-making.
The rhetorical exercise of the hearing starts with this:
Since the dawn of science, man has tried to describe and measure the natural world. Through an iterative process of data collection, formulation of hypotheses, and testing and refining these hypotheses, a knowledge base of information is built that yield theories and allow for predictive models to be built that describe them. Experiments are conducted to test these hypotheses, theories and models. As new observations are incorporated throughout the process, the theories must be able to assimilate these new data or change to accommodate new facts. Confidence in a theory grows only if it is able to survive a rigorous testing process, it is supported by multiple and independent lines of evidence, and competing explanations can be ruled out. The American Physical Society statement on ethics and values states that: “The success and credibility of science are anchored in the willingness of scientists to:

1. Expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others. This requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials.
2. Abandon or modify previously accepted conclusions when confronted with more complete or reliable experimental or observational evidence.
Adherence to these principles provides a mechanism for self-correction that is the foundation of the credibility of science.
By undermining the confidence in the process, this anti-science science committee is looking to undermine the science of climate change itself.

This is where Scott Armstrong comes in. From the abstract from his testimony:
The validity of the manmade global warming alarm requires the support of scientific forecasts of (1) a substantive long-term rise in global mean temperatures in the absence of regulations, (2) serious net harmful effects due to global warming, and (3) cost-effective regulations that would produce net beneficial effects versus alternatives such as doing nothing.

Without scientific forecasts for all three aspects of the alarm, there is no scientific basis to enact regulations. In effect, it is a three-legged stool. Despite repeated appeals to global warming alarmists, we have been unable to find scientific forecasts for any of the three legs.
I am not sure that that last support (the one about cost-effective regulations) is necessary for the science to be right, but I'm no professor of marketing at a business school so I'm obviously no expert in the science of climate change.

In any event, it's interesting that the committee would use the scientific criteria laid out by the American Physical Society as part of a plan to undermine climate change while ignoring that society's own statement on the matter:
Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.

If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.
You'd think that if Armstrong's critiques (which have been around for years) were so inescapably correct the APS statement from 2007 would be amended by now. In fact there was a commentary on the statement released a year ago (April, 2010). It begins like this:
There is a substantial body of peer reviewed scientific research to support the technical aspects of the 2007 APS statement.
So I am guessing the APS doesn't agree with Armstrong. I am guessing that they think they're right and, if asked, they'd think Armstrong was wrong.

On the one hand you have a whole buncha scientists who, as a society, have released a statement saying that climate change is "incontrovertible." On the other there's a marketing professor says otherwise.

Who would you trust for the correct answer? I'd trust the scientists to know the science.

And we all know that Scaife's braintrust don't.

April 15, 2011

More Clarity On An Issue Is Always Better

Let's get a few things established:
  • Gender discrimination is not a good thing.
  • It's just as bad as discrimination by race or religion or sexual orientation or nationality.
  • It should never be tolerated in a civilized society.
But the only way to counter gender based job discrimination is to face it clearly.

Unfortunately, this bubbled up in the P-G recently:
Equal pay laws do not guarantee pay equity. In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was passed, women earned, on average, 59 cents for each dollar earned by men. In 2009, 46 years later -- roughly the span of an average work life -- women earned 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. At this rate of progress, female college graduates from the Class of 2011 won't see pay equity during their work lives; nor will any woman currently in the workplace. [Emphasis added.]
I've seen that pay inequity statistic a lot on the last few days - where does it come from?

According to this report from the American Association of University Women (the AAUW), it's the ratio of the median income earned by women to the median income earned by men.

In this context, "median" means the "middle amount." Imagine a room filled with a large number of people. The median height would be that height were half of the room is taller and half of the room is shorter. A country's median income would be that level where half of that nation's people earn more than that amount and half earn less.

It's not an unimportant statistic - the ratio means exactly what it says: the median income for women is between 3/4 and 4/5 the median income for men. But it's not an average.

Back to the P-G:
Equal pay is an issue of fundamental fairness and an affirmation of equal economic rights.
That is undoubtedly true but are we really talking "equal pay" here? The $.77 on the dollar meme only works if the employment distribution is exactly the same for men and women. The problem for the ratio and those using the ratio in this discussion is that it isn't.

The problem arises when we look to extrapolate from that ratio a generalization about the level of pay inequity in the country. For example, does it mean that we can assume that two employees (one male, one female) working the same job at the same company for the same amount of time can expect to see something close to that the same inequity. Sorry, but I don't think we can assume that. There's a world of difference between comparing large scale median incomes to comparing specific cases or even groups of similar cases.

That's not to say that there's no pay inequality - just that we can't use "$.77 on the dollar" to show it. Not without a lot of qualifiers. None of which we've seen recently.

On those qualifiers - it turns out that the education and employment choices men and women make have a lot more to do with the wage gap than does gender discrimination.

According to another report from the AAUW - a report called Behind the Pay Gap - there are many factors influencing employment and pay; what men and women choose to study in college, where they work after college and how they work when they get there. Take a look:
Behind the Pay Gap examines the gender pay gap for college graduates. One year out of college, women working full time earn only 80 percent as much as their male colleagues earn. Ten years after graduation, women fall farther behind, earning only 69 percent as much as men earn. Controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors normally associated with pay, college-educated women still earn less than their male peers earn.

Individuals can, however, make choices that can greatly enhance their earnings potential. Choosing to attend college and completing a college degree have strong positive effects on earnings, although all college degrees do not have the same effect. The selectivity of the college attended and the choice of a major also affect later earnings. Many majors remain strongly dominated by one gender. Female students are concentrated in fields associated with lower earnings, such as education, health, and psychology. Male students dominate the higher-paying fields: engineering, mathematics, and physical sciences. Women and men who majored in “male-dominated” subjects earn more than do those who majored in “female dominated” or “mixed-gender” fields.
What choices are they talking about? And how does the picture change when they're taken into account? The AAUW points to these influences on the pay gap (these are their topic headings, by the way):
  • Women and men choose different majors.
  • Choice of major plays a significant role in future wages.
  • Women and men work in different occupations.
  • Men report working more hours than women report working.
  • Women are more likely than men to take time off to care for children.
  • Men report working more hours than women report working.
  • Women are more likely to use family leave, work part time, or leave the labor force for some period.
While all of these things skew the numbers downward for women's pay, none, it seems, have much to do with gender discrimination.

And the report goes on about the choices men and women make in education and employment:
If a woman and a man make the same choices, will they receive the same pay? The answer is no. The evidence shows that even when the “explanations” for the pay gap are included in a regression, they cannot fully explain the pay disparity. The regressions for earnings one year after college indicate that when all variables are included, about one quarter of the pay gap is attributable to gender. That is, after controlling for all the factors known to affect earnings, college-educated women earn about 5 percent less than college-educated men earn. [emphasis added.]
And from the Executive Summary:
The pay gap between female and male college graduates cannot be fully accounted for by factors known to affect wages, such as experience (including work hours), training, education, and personal characteristics. Gender pay discrimination can be overt or it can be subtle. It is difficult to document because someone’s gender is usually easily identified by name, voice, or appearance. The only way to discover discrimination is to eliminate the other possible explanations. In this analysis the portion of the pay gap that remains unexplained after all other factors are taken into account is 5 percent one year after graduation and 12 percent 10 years after graduation. [emphasis added.]
Assuming that "the portion of the pay gap that remains unexplained" is proof of gender discrimination, obviously 5 to 12 percent too damn much of a difference.

But it's also a far cry from 23%.

In order to counter it, we have to face gender discrimination clearly.

April 14, 2011

Local Musicians Band Together to Support Chris Zurawsky for City Council - April 15

Via the Friends of Chris Zurawsky:

Pittsburgh Bands Come Together to Support Zurawsky for City Council

Four Pittsburgh-based bands and D.J.s are putting on a concert in Squirrel Hill to show their support for Chris Zurawsky’s current campaign for the 5th District City Council. The show, which will take place on Friday, April 15 at 10 p.m., at Frankie & Georgie’s (formerly P.D.’s Pub) on 5832 Forward Avenue will feature Centipede Eest, Raw Blow, The Gotobeds, and Edgar Um.


This concert represents the musicians’ individual and collective support of Chris and his vision for the City and the District, including his work to increase green space, public art and bike lanes; his promotion of local independent businesses; his environmental record and opposition to Marcellus drilling; and his belief in responsive government that is accessible to all residents. Chris is running in order to continue the 5th District’s tradition of having a strong independent voice in City Council that preserves history while promoting progress. All proceeds from the concert will benefit Friends of Chris Zurawsky.

The cost is $7 and you can find out more on the bands/RSVP here.

You can find out more about Chris at

In the interest of full disclosure, I've been paid by the Friends of Chris Zurawsky campaign to create and maintain his website.


April 13, 2011

Song of the Day

That would be the Talking Heads' “Road To Nowhere” and that would be because former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was forced to make a YouTube apology to David Byrne for the unauthorised use of that song in a 2010 political ad. Here's the song:

Here's the apology:

And, here's the suit that Crist should have had to worn while making the apology:

(And, here's the h/t to Spork)

Ladies And Gentlemen...

CBS News reports some sane words from a prominent Republican:
Former Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) was asked on MSNBC last night what he thinks of the Republican presidential field. After calling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie - who says he is not running - "quite awesome," Simpson lambasted his party's social conservatives for their positions on abortion and homosexuality.

Simpson, a fiscal conservative and pro-choice Republican who co-chaired last year's bipartisan commission to address the federal deficit and debt, complained that there are "homophobes" in the Republican Party. He went on to say that likely GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has "said some cruel things, cruel, cruel things about homosexuals."

"We won a governorship there in New Jersey, one in Virginia, by not talking about social issues," Simpson said. "Who the hell is for abortion? I don't know anybody running around with a sign that says, 'Have an abortion, they're wonderful.' They're hideous. But they're a deeply intimate and personal decision, and I don't think men legislators should even vote on the issue."
On the flip side:
Rick Santorum's appearance on Fox News's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" on Wednesday night is expected to shed light on his next steps toward a potential White House bid, possibly including the formation of an exploratory committee.

The former Pennsylvania senator has already said he plans to participate in the first presidential debate of the campaign season, one that requires participants to have formed a presidential committee first. The May 5 debate, sponsored by the South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News, will be held in Greenville, S.C.
While I don't expect Rick to get any traction in the next election cycle (with Michelle Bachman and/or Sarah Palin in the race there'd be little room for Rick's frothy brand of teh crazie) I could be wrong. Perhaps running an anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-any religion but Rick's platform might garner him some votes. Who knows? Crazier things have been known to happen. I mean a struggling single mother smuggled her new born baby from Kenya to Hawaii 50 years ago in order to fake his citizenship in order to make him President of the United States in order to destroy the country with his radical socialist Muslim agenda!

Whew - sorry. Caught a little of teh crazie myself just then. I'm better now, thanks.

But honestly, when it's a surprise to hear a prominent Republican point out the cruel homophobia in God's Own Party, one has to wonder how deep the intolerance, in fact, is.

April 12, 2011


Via The Pittsburgh Women's Blogging Society:

Fact Checking Bill Donohue

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League defends the indefensible:
When the New York Times published a series of stories last year on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, one of the Church's chief exorcists charged that the paper was possessed by the Devil himself, working diligently to smear the Vatican and tear the Church down. So perhaps it stands to reason that the Catholic League would choose to run a full-page ad in defense of its clergy in the paper's pages--a shot essentially fired from the belly of the beast, if the whole demonic possession thing is to be believed.

In a fiery letter titled "Straight Talk on the Catholic Church," Catholic League President Bill Donohue charges that the spread of homosexuality, not pedophilia, is the problem within the Church. He insists that the scores of victims to come forward in recent years were not children but young men when they were abused, nor were they always unwilling participants.

"The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let's get it straight—they weren't children and they weren't raped," Donahue writes. "The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that 'more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.' In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia."
Since the full page ad is called "Straight Talk..." I'm guessing Donohue is making a pun. He defends the indefensible by saying a number of things:
  • The allegations aren't new.
  • The abuse wasn't rape.
  • The abused weren't children.
  • Everyone else does it.
While all these points may be true - in the strictest sense, what difference does that make? The allegations of sexual abuse date back decades. That's still sexual abuse, right? The abused weren't pre-adolescents (ie "children") so it's not technically "child rape". But it's still sexual abuse of a minor, right?

Nice to know the Catholic League still understands the use of a straw man argument. Too bad they don't understand how useless it is.

As a rebuttal of sorts, I wanted to focus on one paragraphs of Bill's. The one the news article quoted:
The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let’s get it straight—they weren’t children and they weren’t raped. We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape). The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that “more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.” In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.
Oo, again with the pun ("let's get it straight - the problem's with teh gays") Looking at the numbers from the John Jay report one easily sees Donohue's strawman. In the executive summary we find:
The largest group of alleged victims (50.9%) was between the ages of 11 and 14, 27.3% were 15-17, 16% were 8-10 and nearly 6% were under age 7. Overall, 81% of victims were male and 19% female. Male victims tended to be older than female victims. Over 40% of all victims were males between the ages of 11 and 14.
Priests allegedly committed acts which were classified into more than 20 categories. The most frequent acts allegedly committed were: touching over the victim’s clothing (52.6%), touching under the victim's clothes (44.9%), cleric performing oral sex (26%), victim disrobed (25.7%), and penile penetration or attempted penile penetration (22.4%). Many of the abusers were alleged to have committed multiple types of abuse against individual victims, and relatively few priests committed only the most minor acts. Of the 90% of the reported incidents for which we had specific offense details, 141 incidents, or one and one half percent, were reported that included only verbal abuse and/or the use of pornography.
See what Donohue did? 72% of the victims were 14 and under and yet because most adolescents the sexual abuse didn't involve children - to Donohue.

Then there's the abuse itself. Since most was "touching over the victim's clothing" the sexual abuse wasn't rape - to Donohue. He, of course, fails to mention the rate of the cleric performing oral sex (26%)or the rate of "penile penetration" - attempted or otherwise - (22.4%).

Of course it's not child rape. Of course it's not sexual abuse. The Catholic Church is a victim of teh gay!

To quote Christopher Hitchens, "I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to."

Equal Pay Day Rally!

Via the Women and Girls Foundation:
When the Women and Girls Foundation first began efforts to raise awareness of the wage gap and remedy this issue in Southwest PA, women were making less than 70 cents for every dollar a man was making. Since then, WGF has worked with city and county leaders throughout the region to pass wage equity legislation and to support the issue of fair pay for women. Now, in 2011, women are making 75 cents to a man's dollar. We have made change happen in our region, but there is still significant work to be done in Southwest PA and throughout the state to close the gap for women in Pennsylvania.

Equal Pay Day is commemorated annually, when groups organize nationally to raise awareness of the gender wage gap throughout the country. This day, each April, symbolizes how long it takes for women to catch up to men's wages from the previous year. While men earn their wages in 365 days, on average it takes women 483 days. Nationally, women make an average of 80 cents for every dollar a man makes and in Pennsylvania, women make 75 cents per dollar.

Hundreds of women and men have attended previous Equal Pay Day rallies. This year WGF is partnering with local organizations to bring you Equal Pay Day activities in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties!

See listings below to learn more about the activities being planned for your community, and plan to join us as we rally for Equal Pay in Southwest Pennsylvania.

Allegheny County
Partner: YWCA Greater Pittsburgh Center for Race and Gender Equity

Tuesday, April 12 from 12:00 to 1:00pm Market Square Park, Downtown Pittsburgh

Rally Featuring local corporate, nonprofit and business leaders, and representitives from the Allegheny County Regional Change Agents

Equal Pay Bake Sale* (hosted by the Allegheny County Regional Change Agents) Baked goods will be available for purchase. To help illustrate the wage gap, men will be charged $1 per item, and women will be charged 75 cents

A Second Equal Pay Bake Sale* will be held at Alderdice High School (hosted by the Allegheny County Regional Change Agents)

April 10, 2011

It's Not Only In The House

The anti-science, I mean.

Yesterday I blogged on this curious piece of anti-science legislation. In it all the House Republicans and 19 House Democrats (including our own local Jason Altmire) voted in favor of, among other things, voids the EPA finding that:
[G]reenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare.
The EPA administrator based that finding on science. The House of Representatives didn't.

The thing I didn't notice last night was that the legislation has oozed it's way over to the Senate as an amendment from our good friend Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The amendment, to S.493, is according to
SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 - Title I: Reauthorization of the SBIR and STTR Programs - (Sec. 101) Amends the Small Business Act (the Act) to reauthorize through FY2019 the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs of the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The SBIR and STTR programs are meant to spur on scientific and technological innovation. How you get that from voting down a scientific finding is beyond me.

Guess, just guess, who's a cosponsor of this lil bit of anti-science?

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

Looks like more evidence supporting the general idea that the GOP is the anti-science party.

April 9, 2011

Jason Altmire And The EPA

We'll start, yet again, at Chris Potter's slagheap:
[US Rep. Tim] Murphy is among 95 cosponsors of House Resolution 910, the "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" being discussed in the House today. As such, he joins such devotees of reason as Michele Bachmann and Joe Barton, the guy who apologized to BP after the gulf oil spill. This is not great company to be in, especially on matters of energy policy and science.

The upshot of the bill, in fact, is to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from acting on the science of climate change. Specificially, the bill bars the agency from issuing "any regulation concerning, tak[ing] action relating to, or tak[ing] into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change." [Link to in original corrected]
Potter says, a paragraph later:
HR 910 is, in fact, all about the power of positive thinking. It seeks to void a series of previous EPA actions, including a 2009 finding that "greenhouses gasses ... endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations." HR 910 formally deems that this finding is "repealed and shall have no legal effect."

Poof! Problem solved! In the unlikely event this bill became law, the EPA couldn't regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, because the scientific basis for doing so would have been repealed.
Here's the part of the legislation that voids the finding:
(4) CERTAIN PRIOR AGENCY ACTIONS- The following rules and actions (including any supplement or revision to such rules and actions) are repealed and shall have no legal effect:
`(A) ...
`(B) `Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act', published at 74 Fed. Reg. 66496 (December 15, 2009).
And here's the summary of that December, 2009 finding:
The Administrator finds that six greenhouse gases taken in combination endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations. The Administrator also finds that the combined emissions of these greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas air pollution that endangers public health and welfare under CAA section 202(a).

These Findings are based on careful consideration of the full weight of scientific evidence and a thorough review of numerous public comments received on the Proposed Findings published April 24, 2009.
And this is from the overview:
Pursuant to CAA section 202(a), the Administrator finds that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare. Specifically, the Administrator is defining the ‘‘air pollution’’ referred to in CAA section 202(a) to be the mix of six long-lived and directly-emitted greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). In this document, these six greenhouse gases are referred to as ‘‘well-mixed greenhouse gases’’ in this document (with more precise meanings of ‘‘long lived’’ and ‘‘well mixed’’ provided in Section IV.A).

The Administrator has determined that the body of scientific evidence compellingly supports this finding. The major assessments by the U.S. Global Climate Research Program (USGCRP), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the National Research Council (NRC) serve as the primary scientific basis supporting the Administrator’s endangerment finding.
This is what the House Republicans voided by majority vote.

Aye, but it's not only Republicans who are looking to overturn science by legislative fiat.

From the NYTimes:
If there was any doubt about which Democratic House members are worrying most about their re-election prospects in 2012, one only had to look at yesterday's roll call vote on the Republican bill to strip U.S. EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Nineteen moderate and conservative Democrats joined 236 Republicans in supporting the bill, which was sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). Not coincidentally, some had close calls during last year's Republican wave, and most are significant GOP targets in this election cycle.
Guess which conservative Democrat is among those 19?
Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, who won re-election by 2 percentage points in 2010 and will either be targeted through redistricting or with a tough challenger.
This is disappointing to say the least. Science is science. It simply can't be overturned by a 236 Republicans and 19 Democrats sitting in the United States House of Representatives.